With high street fortunes continuing to improve following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, new research reveals that a renewed surge of customer loyalty, fuelled by increased gift card usage, may be a key driver behind retailers’ continuing resurgence.

According to a nationally-representative survey into 2,000 UK consumers, conducted by the Gift Card and Voucher Association (GCVA), delivered by Global Data, more than one in three shoppers (35.7%) report having been more frequently purchasing gift cards for their favourite brands, in order to support their financial recovery.

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Indicating a shift in shopper buying habits since the onset of COVID-19, the public also report a desire to emphasise shopping with local, independent brands through gift cards moving forwards. This was reported by 8.9% of shoppers, equating to around 5.9 billion UK adults.

On a similar note, nearly half of shoppers (44.6%) also reported that they intend to continue supporting their local high street shops, either via purchasing gift cards or visiting in person, indicating a renewed sense of loyalty from the public following the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notably, 4.8% of shoppers – equating to approximately 3.2 million adults across the UK –  have begun purchasing gift cards specifically since lockdown began, offering a new source of income, as well as customer engagement and retained loyalty, for retailers that offer a gift card programme.

The research, which also revealed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers would be more encouraged to return to retail, hospitality and leisure values if they received a gift card, comes amidst continually-improving footfall figures for the high street since emerging from lockdown. Footfall analysis shows that footfall has continually improved since restrictions were eased – particularly during the summer holidays and recent Bank Holiday weekend.

Gail Cohen, director-general of the GCVA: “It has been great to see customers flocking to support their favourite high street businesses following the easing of lockdown restrictions. Gift cards have always been a wonderful way to show appreciation, whether it is to a friend, family member, employee or teacher. It is wonderful to see this spirit extended to high street businesses, both large and small, following a volatile and uncertain 12 months.

“Clearly, gift cards remain an invaluable customer loyalty, engagement and retention tool and, if this latest research is anything to go by, their importance only continues to grow and flourish over time. Retail and leisure businesses would all do well to heed this changing trend – if you do not offer a gift card programme, now is the time to seriously look into doing so.”